The Harper's Ferry Insurrection ( - Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, 1859)
The Harper’s Ferry Insurrection.
The recent diabolical and most extraordinary out-break at Harper’s Ferry, by a few misguided, has justly excited this community to a degree hitherto unknown. So hideous—so devilish—so monstrously wicked—and yet so really absurd did the whole story seem to our people, even when the truth was told, that it was not believed here until the capture of the insurgents was fully accomplished, and citizens of the place had gone to the scene of disturbance and returned with a full detail of astounding reality. The people of our quiet town could hardly realize the fact that a plot of such villainy could have been concocting almost in their midst, without even a suspicion of its existence; and that it should have been attempted, if at all, at the place it was. That a few phrenzied, malignant out-laws, roused by no provocation, and numbering in all, originally, only about twenty two men, or a little upwards, should attempt an enterprise of such fearful magnitude, with all its consequences vividly painted to their imagination, in case of a failure and what else could they hope for—is to us most wonderful; yet it shows to what fearful risks men may be hurried by the fell spirit of an intense fanaticism. These scoundrels, it seems, rented, some months ago, an old dilapidated house and worn-out farm belonging to the late Dr. KENNEDY of Sharpsburg, and situated about mid-way between the Antietam Iron Works and Harper’s Ferry, in an obscure part of the county known as Sample’s Manor. Here these cut throats had their rendezvous for many months, pretending to be seeking for ores and minerals in the adjacent mountains, and having various tools and implements of their ostensible profession in their possession, and to be seen by anybody. These rascals were constantly prowling about through the county around, making their observation, and doubtless tampering with our slaves, some of them pretending to be book agents, engaged in procuring subscriptions to works of great interest and value; and yet so adroit were they in their nefarious scheme, that at no time, we believe, was suspicion cast upon their movements. They were seen at various times conveying to this house loads of boxes, in wagons, but still no wrong was suspected; and to a teamster, who hauled a heavy load of those boxes from Chambersburg, Pa., to their house already spoken of, they said they meant to establish a large hardware store, by which they expected to make large gains. Their leader, BROWN,
and a few others of the gang were seen here, in Hagerstown, frequently during the last summer; and the former actually boarded at one of our respectable hotels, without creating suspicion or even scarcely exciting an enquiry as to their business.
The sudden appearance of these bloody marauders in the Ferry, on the night of Sunday the 16th, and the following morning, was well calculated to create alarm among the good people of that town. To find their town in the possession of a lawless band, and their lives at the mercy of a servile revolt, were sufficient in themselves to spread dismay
and terror; but to witness their unoffending friends and fellow citizens shot down when peacefully walking along the public thoroughfares of the town, any one of whose lives was worth more than ten thousand such heartless abolitionists, was indeed enough to strike a panic to the heart of every one of that seemingly devoted town.
But the hour of retribution was close at hand ! The summons sent upon the lightning’s wing was soon obeyed by the citizen soldiery of the neighboring towns and cities; and being soon re-enforced by a company of United States’ Marines, the insurgents were quickly made to feel their impotency, and to pay with their lives the enormity of their guilt. And may such be the end of every like attempt upon the peace, order, and government of the country. The few who escaped instant death, are now confined in the Jail at Charlestown, awaiting, it is true, a little more tardy yet a more ignoble death.
Nothing we believe has yet transpired to show how far the slave population throughout this part of the country was affected by these prowling vagabonds; but it is hoped and believed that it has had little or no extent. The Legislatures both of Virginia and Maryland will be in session within the next three months, and we have no doubt that such means will be adopted as to prevent, as far as practicable, any such another foolhardy enterprise. In the mean time let the South be wide awake to detect any similar plot that may, by possibility, be hatching here or elsewhere. All these miserable men were either dilled or captured on the spot of their revolt, except COOK, and he it is said has since been arrested at Carlisle, Pa., by MICHAEL HOUSER, Esq., our former townsman, and committed to prison to await the requisition of the Governor of Virginia, and thus has ended one of the most remarkable outbreaks that has ever occurred in the history of this country, the details of which will be found in subsequent columns.
P. S.—The man arrested at Carlisle is supposed to be one of Capt. BROWN’S party, but is not Capt. COOK. He gives his name as WILLIAM HARRISON, and had on his person three revolvers and two bowie knives.
Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, Hagerstown
Brown, John, 1800-1859; Washington County (Md.), history
Washington County (Md), 1859